House Robberies, Murder, Bombings, School shootings, Genocide, the list goes on and on. Over and over, the news headlines tell the story of violence. With each incident, there is a wave of shock, grief, outrage and blaming. It can be overwhelming. But it should not be, that is not if you want to maximize your happiness in this world. You need to find a way to make peace with violence or it will consume you.
I know this guy who puts a variety of weapons, cellphones and flashlights all over his home. He has specific places where each is kept and he makes sure that he can reach each of those weapons and other tools at a moment’s notice, even in the cover of night when he cannot see where those items are. He can walk to it in total darkness and get it ready for deployment at a moment’s notice. He is a total whacko right? Wrong. His philosophy is: “If something bad happens, there won’t be enough time to figure out what to do. You’ve got to plan what you’re going to do before it happens.”
Think about it, schools and business hold regular fire drills. Why? So that in the event of a fire, everybody knows exactly where the fire escape doors are located and where the emergency assembly points are located. If those fire drills were not conducted regularly, what would happen in a real-life situation? CHAOS. INJURIES. DEATH. By preparing for disaster, one can greatly eliminate the consequences when it happens. And happen it will, that is a fact of life. The trick is to be prepared for that disaster/violence and to make peace with it. When you make peace with it and prepare for it, you take away much of the uncertainty, stress and fear, which in turn make smiling and being happy much easier.
So, whether it’s an attack on your person, or an act of nature, how do you make peace with violence?
There are two important steps:
Step 1: Accept the fact that you can be a target of violence.
Step 2: Prepare for it. How far you decide to prepare is up to you, but as a rule, the more you accept and prepare for violence, the less you’ll fear it, the more you’ll be able to control it, and the less risk you’ll have of ever facing it.
When it comes to taking steps to protect ourselves, it’s easier to accept the impersonal dangers of a fire, earthquake, or hurricane over the more personal dangers of a mugging, rape, or murder. Which is completely understandable. No one wants to wake up thinking, “Hey! Maybe I’ll be killed at the office today!” Or “Hey! Maybe I’ll have to kill someone at the office today!” Nice people don’t want to think of themselves as either a victim or a killer. It takes us into dark, uncomfortable territory.
You also should not deny that violence is an inextricable part of the world. Denying or ignoring violence only makes you more vulnerable to it. The good news is, in the same way it does not take much to fireproof your home, it does not take much to prepare for violence. Even a small shift in attitude can drastically increase your peace of mind.
Take the terrorist attack on 9/11 in the United States as an example. After the attack, whenever passengers were on a plane, every time someone stood up, every passenger was watching to see what was going on. Suddenly there was a willingness in every person to jump up and stop anybody who started trouble. What was the reason for that? Two things: 1) Everyone had accepted the possibility that violence could happen. 2) Everyone was prepared to do something to protect themselves. Which is the way it should always be!
If you don’t want to accept and prepare for violence, then, with all due respect, you will become a victim! You may not want to accept that staying out in the sun all day will burn your skin or lead to skin cancer, but denying the truth won’t stop you from getting burned.
Fact: Bad guys exist.
Fact: Bad guys always look for opportunity.
Fact: You may be their next opportunity.
Fact: Your best chance to protect yourself and everything you care about is to make peace with both bad guys committing violence against you and you committing violence against them.
Here’s a test. When a horrific event occurs, if you say, “I can’t believe it! How could that happen? This is so unfair, why does government not do anything to stop this?” what you’re really saying is, “I still have not accepted that the world can be a scary place and evil people do evil things.” In short, “I have not made peace with violence.” The truth is you’ve been hearing about tragic events since you could understand. How many school shootings do you have to hear about before you make peace with the fact that violence can occur at schools? How many farm attacks do you read about before you make peace with the fact that farm attacks will happen? How many abductions? How many murders and rapes? Violence has always been part of our world and probably always will be. But it’s still a beautiful world.
So, take a breath… accept it… and let’s move on.
I’m not suggesting we should not be affected by tragic events—we’re not animals or cyborgs after all. I’m suggesting we make peace with violence so we’ll be better able to move past the surprise and shock when something terrible occurs. That way, we can heal and rebuild faster. We can’t let violence knock us off our feet every time we encounter it. We should see violence for what it is— a natural phenomena.
When you see a lion hunt a buffalo, you don’t say, “That evil lion!” You accept that the lion has to eat. You may feel sorry for the buffalo and it may be unpleasant to watch, but that is the reality of nature. In nature there are earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, viral infections, attacks from animals, floods etc. Nature is a whirlwind of never-ending violence. You cannot pretend it does not exist. If you do, you’re the one being unnatural. There are consequences for being unnatural: you create tension, stress, and discomfort in your body, mind and soul.
Can you imagine stabbing another human being with a knife? Most people recoil at the thought of stabbing someone. But what if you had to perform a tracheotomy? What if you had to cut into someone’s throat to keep them from suffocating? What if someone you loved was trapped and you had to cut off one of their limbs to free them? How would you feel if you had to use violence to save a person from dying? If you are OK with that, why are you not comfortable with the use of violence to protect yourself? To me, that’s what self-defense is really all about…being comfortable. Even in bad situations—life and death situations—you find a way, on some level, to be comfortable. Comfortable enough to stay clear-headed, make good decisions, and take smart action.
When you operate from a place of comfort, you are at your most powerful.